The changing face of Kashmiri dissent

The changing face of Kashmiri dissent

In a region known for its violence, some Kashmiris are adopting art and music to protest what they see as unjust treatment of their homeland.




The site of violent conflict since 1989, Indian Kashmir is seeing a period of relative calm. Peaceful demonstration seems to have replaced armed conflict, despite the continued presence of Indian troops in the region. Protests have become more democratic and artistic expression has become more prevalent.


Since 1949, India and Pakistan have fought over Kashmir thrice. Between those conflicts began an armed resistance to Indian rule that sparked a counter-insurgency program from the Indian military. Between 1999 and 2003, suicide bombings against Indian military targets were carried out by various Kashmiri insurgency groups. In the last few years, however, this sort of violence in Kashmir has largely disappeared.


Not to say that dissent has disappeared in Indian Kashmir, however. On the contrary, it's still being expressed, and frequently - just through more peaceful means. Kashmiris take to the streets in mass rallies, often raising their hands in protest of Indian rule. Sometimes demonstrations result in clashes with security forces however, as some Kashmiris have begun to use the act of throwing stones at security forces as a symbolic form of protest.


The stone-throwing draws a parallel with the Palestinan conflict – a parallel cartoonist Malik Sajad is more than happy to highlight in his work as well. One of his cartoons features a Kashmiri stag facing down an Indian armoured holding a rock in an image reminiscent of the scenes from the Palestinian Territories. Sajad explains that the stag, a symbol of Kashmir, reminds the viewer that Kashmir's wildlife is affected by Indian rule just as its people are. As a part of the growing artistic expression of dissent, Sajad's cartoons and graphic novels visually narrate the collective experience of his community. In one cartoon, a tree labelled "Kashmiri Community" is shown being picked apart by woodpeckers, an image that Sajad says represents the self-destruction of the Kashmiri community.


Born and raised in Srinagar, Kashmir, Rapper MC Kash brings the protest movement to music. With a goal to bring attention to the situation in Kashmir, MC Kash raps in English to attract a wider international audience. His 2010 song, "I Protest (Remembrance)", was adopted as a protest anthem and garnered attention outside of Kashmir. Some of the song's lyrics included "these killings ain't random it's an organised genocide" and "when freedom of sppech is subjected to strangulation, flames of revolution engulfs the population." Despite his graphic, politically-charged lyrics, MC Kash insists he's not anti-Indian, only trying to raise awareness of what his community faces at home.


Read more of Al Jazeera's special coverage: Kashmir - The Forgotten Conflict


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